MONTREAL -- BMW plans to introduce a hydrogen-powered 7 series in Germany between 2008 and 2010, said Franz-Josef Wetzel, head of BMW's Future Powertrain Project.
The 745H uses an internal combustion engine that can run on either gasoline or super-cold liquid hydrogen.
A small fuel cell in the trunk uses hydrogen to generate electricity for the car's 42-volt electrical system, which will power accessories such as air conditioning and power steering.
The dual fuel system will enable the 745H to travel about 290km on hydrogen alone and another 645km on gasoline. BMW adopted that strategy in anticipation that there will be few hydrogen fueling stations.
BMW's fuel cell strategy stands in contrast to that of most other automakers, which have focused on using fuel cells to generate power for the vehicle's drivetrain and accessories.
The big debate for auto fuel cells revolves around storing hydrogen on board the vehicle, or using reformer technology to convert gasoline into hydrogen to use the existing refueling infrastructure.
BMW does not believe fuel cell technology will be robust enough in the next 10 years for the daily demands of automobiles, said Christoph Huss, senior vice president of science and traffic policy.
"It has to be as good as customers are used to having," Huss said. "Fuel cells will be competing with 100-year old technology. That's the biggest challenge."